Hamilton ready for full-time duty
By Bruce Martin
PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) - After roundly criticizing the qualification format for the Indianapolis 500, where only 11 cars were locked into the field on Pole Day, Davey Hamilton is making news again. only this time, the news is a positive for the IndyCar Series.
The American short track driver from Boise, Idaho has even bigger plans on the horizon. He wants to bring his Hewlett-Packard sponsored car to the IndyCar Series and be part of a full-time team.
“I want to be involved with a team full time,” Hamilton said. “With Hewlett-Packard, right now they have been a great sponsor. I want to be involved full time. I don’t have to have the name as team owner but I want to be involved with the team whether it is as a sponsor, team manager, ownership or any of the above. I’m definitely interested.”
Hamilton, who has been part of Vision Racing for the past two Indy 500s, is grateful to team owner Tony George for getting him back into the cockpit after his long IndyCar layoff.
“Tony has given me the opportunity to get back in the car, but that is as far as it has gone,” Hamilton said. “Hewlett-Packard, I represent them year-round and I can work on a package that would bring Hewlett-Packard into a bigger role in the series for all the races. I’m trying to put that package together.
“I don’t have enough horsepower on my own to have a team so I have gone to Tony and Laura George, and also Kingdom Racing, who is on my car now and would like to have a team as well. If I can help a team out and be involved with a team full time, that’s what I want to do.”
Hamilton believes the TEAMS Program that was announced by the IndyCar Series in the offseason makes it more feasible to start a team. The program guarantees $1.2 million per car, per team for the entire IndyCar Series schedule.
“You have solid dollars that you know you are going to make at the end of the year,” Hamilton said. “You know what the bills are to Honda and Firestone. It gets narrowed down to have your budget much safer. It gives you a baseline for the season.”
Hamilton, who is in the beginning stages of his search for a team, is willing to move back to Indianapolis to make it happen.
“I’m coming out that I’m interested in that role,” Hamilton said. “I’m hoping it happens. I’d like to bring something to the table besides just knowledge of motorsports but also a sponsor as well.
“It’s a great opportunity and a great time. I want to be involved in this sport forever. I want to be involved for the rest of my life. As much fun as I’m having, as much as I think I can win this race, I need to look at my future and my family’s future and go from there.”
Hamilton was one of the original drivers when Indy Racing League began competition in 1996 and has been a true believer of the series from the very beginning. Now that it is a unified IndyCar Series, Hamilton believes there are greater things ahead and he wants to be a part of it.
“I’m very happy that this day has come,” Hamilton said. “Did I think it was going to happen? Probably not. They were apart for so long. It was a situation where I didn’t think they would ever get back together. It has and it is a great series right now. When I first came here in 1995 it was tough. Roger Penske didn’t make this race that year. All the excitement is back. You know the best in the world are here. All the best teams and sponsors are here and it is going to grow from here.”
Hamilton admits he benefited from the split between the two series.
“Am I happy the split happened? Yeah, I probably am, because it gave me an opportunity to be here on a full-time basis,” Hamilton said. “When I was here in 1995, that was a one-off Indy program with Ron Hemelgarn as well. To hire a short-track Idaho Hillbilly, that just wasn’t going to happen. With Tony George doing the oval series, I as a driver was more attractive to some of the owners to run ovals and that gave me the opportunity.
“Without the split, I’d probably be a weather guy. Who knows what would have happened?”
Hamilton proved something to himself after he came back from crippling leg injuries suffered in a crash during an IndyCar race at Texas in 2001 to finish ninth in last year’s Indianapolis 500.
This year, Hamilton is back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - not to prove a point but to attack the race as a true racer in quest of an Indy 500 victory.
“I came in here last year and this year first of all to have fun,” Hamilton said. “There is nobody in this pit area having more than I am. I’m having a blast. It’s the biggest race in the world. I’m here because I want to do well and I want to try to win this race.
“I’m a realist as well. When you are up against the guys in these cars week-in and week-out, it’s hard to compete against these guys but it can be done. If we play the race smart and right we can get a great finish, another top 10 and I’ll leave here with a big smile on my face again.”
Hamilton starts Sunday’s Indy 500 in the 18th starting position, the outside of Row 6, after a four-lap qualification average of 222.017 miles per hour.